I felt really good. I was calm, but still looking forward to the day. Mantras were firmly in place, I had everything packed up that I needed to and was good to go. Oh, and let's not forget what the weather forecast said....23 C and sunny with some clouds!!! See what a Universal effort of thought can do!!
Here's me with lucky number 2060 etched into my skin with Jiffy Marker. Now if only I could get my legs to look as toned as my arms!
After sniffing Jiffy Marker, Mum, Dad, Greg and I proceeded to special needs where I could drop off my run and bike special needs. Good thing Dad was standing beside me as I was about to drop my bike special needs in one of the boxes...it was the wrong numbered box. He called it, thankfully. I seriously have no idea where my brain was that morning - typically I'm a morning person.
We then trotted off to the transition area where I could load up my bike with the two water bottles I purchased, fill up my profile bottle, drop my Fuel Belt bottles into my run bag and walk back and forth and back and forth trying to remember where it was I wanted to put my sunglasses. At this point I was hoping my brain would kick into gear before the race started!
I saw some of the other Cochrane gang that were racing, while I was in transition. It was great to be able to give and recieve some hugs and good wishes.
On the way out of transition I got to chit chatting with a rather handsome young bloke, who I learned was from the UK. He was asking me if I'd raced this before, how many races I'd done etc. Super nice fellow so I made sure to make note of his number (21). I was my usual charming, giggly self in return. Shame on me, flirting before a big race! Had he not been wearing his wet suit I may have tried to sneak a peek at his age on his calf... Turns out he was one of the pros. Who knew?!
I kept my dry clothes bag with me as it was still a bit early. We all walked to the farther end of the beach so the gang could get a good spot to watch the swim start. By then, Leslie, Teresa and Michaela had found us as well. I had my posse, so all was well.
We hung out watching the pros get ready, I even got to lend one of them my body glide so he could slather it on his neck. I refrained from lecturing him about making sure he was prepared on race day. Soon enough, the gun went off and so did the pros.
It was now time for me to wriggle and thrust my way into my neoprene encasement. I decided I would wear the booties afterall, just for the fact it would help with walking on the beach. The water wasn't as cold as earlier on in the week - 59.5 F.
One, two, three, and HEAVE over the thighs and hips!
Shame no one captured footage of my ever graceful pelvic thrusting wetsuit dance.
I went down for a quick warm up swim, which felt really good. The water was brisk, but a really nice temperature for the swim. I came back up the beach and found the posse and joked around with them for a while. Finally it was time to get in position for the swim.
As per usual, I chose to stand on the far end of the pack. This, I would later learn will have to change for future races...
Finally it was time to go! The gun went off and so did just under 2100 swimmers. The swim was two loops counterclockwise. I was on the far right of the pack so had to swim diagonally to the first turn. I didn't have to much congestion with people, just the odd person hitting my feet, which doesn't bug me too much as long as they don't keep at it.
I had one gal that kept wanting to swim to the right (note that the buoy was to the left) I was getting tired of her cutting in front, seeing me then going left again, so finally I just let her swim on by. Wonder just how far off course she got... oh well, that's what the kayakers are out there for!
It felt like forever to the first buoy - and it was. In future I shall be positioning myself differently in the swim. The water was a wee bit choppy, but thankfully there weren't waves like last year! The odd time I would get a mouthful of water when I'd take a breath, but I would just turn my head back under the water, cough it out, then go for another breath.
I have to say, I was super pumped about this. Last year was my major breakthrough with swim anxiety so I was just giddy that here I was in an Ironman swim remaining calm even though there were times when I needed air and wasn't getting any. I didn't panic or freak, I just calmly kept swimming and took a breath at the next convenient moment. YAY!
I finally made it around the first loop, came out of the water, ran across the timing mat, saw Leslie, Teresa and Michaela madly screaming at me, then saw Greg ready with the camera. The smile on my face truly reflects how I was feeling.
One more lap to go. Here is when I thought to myself, Suse, you have got to pick up the pace a bit. Come on now, long and strong! So I focused more on my stroke and got into a great groove. I realized I was zigzagging too much so got into a sighting rhythm. One, two, three strokes, breathe. One, two, three strokes, breathe, one stroke, sight. This actually helped me focus on my swim more as well.
Mental note for next race, do this from this start. I was happy with my swim, but in hindsight realized I would have to start focusing on my stroke and sighting much earlier on. I was pleased as punch that I handled the sections that were choppy and maintained my calm. It was a great start to the day.
Finally I was out of the water and running to transition. The first thing I noticed was an incredibly sharp pain slicing through my abdomen. I had taken in several gulps of water and thought perhaps this was causing some problems. Unlike past races, however, I didn't worry about it. Normally I would think, 'Oh great! I'm not even on my bike and my gust are killing me!! What about the run!'
As I was getting all my bike gear on, with the assistance of an amazing volunteer, I told myself 'You have 180 km to get your guts in shape for the run, so don't bother getting in a tiff about it.'. Focus on what you are doing right at this moment!
I grabbed my bike and ran, and ran, and ran to the mount line. It was a bit farther away then one would guess! I tried to spot the posse, but only when I was on the first street did I finally see Mum and Dad. I yelled at them, but they were still busy looking for me. Spazzes!
I was looking forward to the ride after having driven the course. The ride did not disappoint either!
First I headed out towards the East. I stayed upright in my seat for the first half hour. This is when I took some time to do a 'body check', as I like to call it, and assessed what was going on with my stomach. I decided it was likely that I took in a lot of air with the water and just needed to burp. I then thought of my friend Julie's saying 'If you aren't burping or farting during Ironman, then somethings wrong!' So I did my best to start burping - my family and close friends will tell you I'm quite the pro at this. I was starting to feel much better within the half hour.
The next challenge I came across was my alarm to tell me when to take in some drink. Somehow it had switched from 'repeat mode' to stopping after the first 9 minutes timer went off. The watch is positioned on my handle bars and rather squished in, so it took a bit of maneourving to hit the buttons to change the setting, all the while pedaling, passing, and looking out for where I was pointing my bike.
Once that was taken care of I had another little challenge - my back water bottle. I reached for it, but it didn't appear to be there. I looked around quickly and saw it was, but it had slipped out of the bottle holder a bit and the top spout was rubbing along my back tire. Nuts!
I should explain here that I bought two water bottles at the store to use for the first bit because I'd be throwing them out at the first aid station. I'm Dutch/Scottish and therefore too cheap to throw away my perfectly good water bottles! The problem with the water bottles were that they were a bit skinny so had slipped out. The cap was a flip top so when I finally wrenched it out I noticed a good amount of rubber had been rubbed off my tire! I said a quick prayer to the IronGods to please let my tire be ok...
The first aid station wasn't too far away so I turfed that bottle and grabbed one of theirs that would fit better. All this in less than 30 minutes!!! Finally I got in the aeros and settled in for the ride.
Like the swim, the bike course is two loops. I loved this bike course. The first bit, where I had most of my excitement, was along the water. Then you ride out of town and into Hayden where you are in trees and farmland. My happy place!
I kept an eye on my heart rate and cadence. I felt strong and consistent, and even managed to pass some people.
When I got to the first hill I thought of my friend Darryl and how he said to 'Be the Mountain Goat.' I was behind this gal at the first hill, but she slowed down too much so I proceeded to pass her. As I went by her on the bike, just as we were to make our ascent, I said 'It's time to Be The Mountain Goat!'. She and I laughed at this and I continued on.
I felt really good through the rollers. Some were pretty steep, but nothing I couldn't handle. I had a great time out there. I even passed a gal on the 180 hairpin turn. She was using her brakes a lot and I was more comfortable with the speed so just went by. That corner was a bit tricky as you come down a hill with some good speed, hit the 180, then hit another climb. Yeeehaaaw!
As I was riding I kept the saying that Jenna had going through my mind 'Don't eat paste.' I wanted to ride strong, but I wanted to continue to do so and not blow up on the next lap or the run.
Eventually I was back onto Government Way and headed back to town. I had thought I'd get some great speed on this section as it's a slight downgrade, but rather I was hit with a mega headwind. I felt some crosswinds when I was on the northern part of the course, but didn't equate it to a headwind on the way back.
I'm so used to wind from where I train, it really did bother me, other than the fact that I couldn't get the speed I had hoped. Such is racing though!
I swooped back into town and was met with many cheers from spectators and sections of my posse, who were happy to see that I did, indeed get out there on my bike after having missed me coming out of transition!It was fabulous zipping thorugh town. Tons of people cheering you on, some good speed to be had, but also lots of corners. I actually didn't mind the technicality of the course. For a rookie like me it made it a lot of fun and helped me stay focused on the present moment of the ride.
My second loop of the course was much like the first. I was feeling great energy wise and was making sure I took in bananas at every aid station in addition to my Infinit. I was really happy with my energy levels because I've struggled with fueling in past races and training rides. It's embarassing to say how many times I've bonked!!
I was continuing to listen to my body as I rode and started to recognize a pattern. When I took in a few gulps of Infinit or some banana, I would go into my aero position, but feel uncomfortable, until I sat up. As soon as I'd do that I'd burp, feel better and could go into aero. Once I figured all this out I just added that little burp sequence into my fueling routine. I swear I was a friggin burping queen out there!!
Towards the end of the ride I noticed my knees were a bit sore. My mind wanted to jump to what this would mean on the run, but I refrained from doing so and just remained focussed on staying strong.
I had a great bike ride, and other than the four bathroom breaks (mental note, learn to pee on the damn bike!) I think I maintained a pretty consistent pace. At least I felt I did. I was super stoked about that as I have worked hard on my biking skills the last few months!
At long last, it was time for the run. Oh how I wanted to run! Last year I had to walk pretty much the entire marathon. This year I would keep the goal I had last year, which was run between aid stations and walk the hills (what few there were).
I got into transition, changed, had ANOTHER pee break (at least I know I was hydrated!) and then ran out the exit. Once again, there was Greg to capture the moment!
I actually stopped and hugged Greg when I got out on the run. I was so damned excited about how great I felt! I don't recall ever getting off the bike and not being in GI distress - all the burping and staying focussed on the moment was paying off!!
I ran down the path along the beach and saw the rest of the posse. I was so happy to see them. My folks looked absolutely relieved at the big smile on my face. Dad asked 'Are you ok? How is your stomach??' I was beaming as I yelled 'I'm feeling great!!!' Then I said to Les, 'Life is Good', in reference to a really cute sticker she had given me the day before. It has a little beatnik stick man in the 'Aum' pose with that caption.
I ran the first loop then got to see the gang again. I was still beaming. As I ran out of main area people were calling my name (it was on my race number) and commenting about my smile. I was really happy with that as I was on cloud nine.
By the time I got to the third aid station, having ran in between all of them, I told myself that at this point that I had exceeded my expectations. I had a strong, steady bike, and I got to the run with no GI distress and I was running. Anything after this was going to be gravy.
I continued running, then walking the aid stations. I was taking in the gel I had on my fuel belt, along with water. Yes, I was still peeing like mad. I got to the one 'big' hill on the run and power walked up it. I still felt good and was still smiling. The one thing I was having troubles with was getting the gel out of the flask. I had to suck like mad on it to get anything. For reasons I'm not sure, I didn't think to just unscrew the top and get it that way! Duh.
As I started back into town, the feeling of some fatigue was creeping in. I did an assessment of my body. Okay, was this fatigue because you just swam 3.8 km, and biked 180 km, or something else? Something was niggling the back of my brain. I continued on, but kept a close watch on the signals my body was giving me.
By the time I hit the 11 mile marker, I was slowing down - but still running! I told myself, if you can get to the 13 mile marker you will have run a half friggin marthon in an Ironman! You are allowed to walk then if you need to.
I was almost at the 13 mile mark when I saw Greg. He started running beside me and asking how I was. I likely started rambling as I was trying to figure out what the signals my body was telling me meant. Was I just tired, or did I need something more?
I got back onto the path and came up to the posse. I was smiling still and said I was still ok, but as I left them I felt like I wanted to burst into tears. This was a huge signal for me. Rationally I was feeling fine, tired, but fine. I was happy with the day and had no reason to cry. So what was my body telling me?? My mind started sifting through all my prior training and processing what was going on...finally it clicked - I wasn't getting enough fuel from the gel!!!
AHA! Okay, this is not a problem. We are coming up to another aid station - time to try some bananas. Also, I knew I just had to get around the turnaround and I'd get my special needs. I had stashed some chocolate covered peanuts in there, also known as a rapid sugar boost. I was going to be fine.
My pace had slowed considerably, but I was still running! I got past the turnaround and for a breif moment had a fellow running beside me. I asked how he was doing - he said he was ok. Then as he ran by he said to me, 'Wow, you sure don't look 38 years old!' Well now, if there is anything that can give someone a burst of energy, it's a compliment. I laughed and thanked him.
Finally I was at the special needs. As the volunteer was asking if I wanted my bag I was practically ripping it out of her hands. GIVE ME MY CHOCOLATE PEANUTS! I decided to hold off ripping into them until I passed the posse again.
As I passed them Leslie smacked my butt with her hand and said shake my bootie! I must say, this darn near dropped me to my knees. My shorts were wet from the ice I'd put in the back on my top, so her light smack turned into a very loud, hard, stinging SMACK! I stumbled, then regained my step. Trust me on this one, Les felt horrible about it. I will forever, in a friendly way, tease her for almost taking me out of my stellar race! Oh, and you should have seen the faces of those nearby that heard it!! Priceless.
As I ran out of town I started in on the chocolate peanuts. I made sure to chew them a million times so they wouldn't cause a problem as I ran. I had to walk a bit here as I gobbled them up, but as soon as I could I started running again. I also continued in on the banana's at every aid staiton, along with water. I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to eat another banana again after this race! By the time I got back to the waterfront on the east side of the resort, things were started to pick up.
I was almost at the turnaround when I heard my name being yelled and frantic honking. It was Jonathon and Jaimie Roth. Jaimie had raced today as well, but was done and cheering on his fellow Cochranites. I was joking with them about the fact that my arse cheeks were bouncing off my heels, but I was doing fine.
I got to the turnaround and almost did the Snoopy Happy Dance there - I was on my way home. The extra nutrition had kicked in at this point and I was able to pick up my pace. It was starting to get dark out, but I wasn't worried. I was on my way home!!
I wound around the neighborhoods and high fived a bunch of spectators as they kept yelling 'you are almost done!'
Finally I rounded the second last corner. It was pretty dark by then, but my favourite fan, Michaela still spotted me. She started jumping up and down and yelling to Leslie 'It's Susi! It's Susi!!!' They both ran to me and started running beside me. Leslie joked about how she could barely keep up and that I had a good strong pace.
I rounded the last corner and was on Sherman Avenue. I couldn't see the finish line, but could see a long line of spectators on both sides of the streets and I could almost make out the stands in front of the finish. The smile on my face went from ear to ear. This was it, I was about to become an Ironman for the second time.
I finally saw Mom, Dad and Greg. Their smiles were amazing. I was so happy to be finishing strong, especially for the parental unit.
The rest is a bit of a blur. I remember going through the stands and high fiving people. It was awesome. I heard the announcer stumble over my name, as I ran under the finish line. Apparantly he also commented on my 'occupation', that of Jack Daniels QC Taste Tester. (I had a little fun filling in my registration form...)
I DID IT!!!
There was a woman there who 'caught' me. She asked if I was ok, to which I replied 'I'M FEELING GREAT!!' They gave me my finishers hat and shirt, then hung my medal on me. Finally I saw Greg. I really have no idea what I said, I was just so damn happy with the whole day. I felt great. I'm not sure if the picture Greg took of me at the finish quite captures just how ecstatic I am?!?
I have to say, for me, this was the perfect race. I had fun. I learned things. I wasn't afraid to try something new. I listened the signals my body was giving me and it paid off. I RAN the friggin marathon!!! I stayed steady and strong for the entire bike course. I stayed positive. I stayed in the moment. I smiled. I enjoyed myself!
Seriously, who could ask for anything more?!
I'm thankful for the positive energy that my friends and family provided for me out there. I felt it the entire way and I kept you all in my thoughts!!
I'm still smiling...
Peace out my friends!